Uncovering Digital Learning Engagement is Vital to Measuring Impact on Student Success

Posted by Sarah SingerO

September 10, 2020


The following is an excerpt of Hoonuit’s Insight Report: The Evolving Role of Education Data. The report is a summary of qualitative interviews with more than 100 subject matter experts within the Hoonuit Analytics community and addresses key trends of data use that education agencies will need to focus on over the next 18-24 months. Download the full report.

Universal Challenges 

As schools were forced to abruptly close and immediately transition to at-home digital learning, new challenges and existing inequities in our educations systems came to light. Experts nationwide have voiced that digital learning will be a fundamental component of schooling for the foreseeable future as social distancing requirements prevent traditional teaching. Hoonuit partners have echoed this and anticipate that digital learning will be deployed in one way or another in the 2020-21 school year. 

The adoption and use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) and other digital tools have increased exponentially throughout March and continued through the end of the school year as districts switched to distance learning. There has been a significant surge in usage of virtual tutoring, video conferencing, and online learning software since the onset of COVID-19 school closures. 

Even in the best of distance learning circumstances, educators expect significant student regression, both academically and social-emotionally. Unfortunately, most distance learning circumstances last spring did not meet an ideal standard due to inequities in education technology. 

Only 24% of public-school teachers reported that all of their students had access to a computer or tablet for school work,4 according to a nationally representative survey of 600 public school teachers conducted in early May by Educators for Excellence (E4E).5 Access to computing devices and Wi-Fi is an issue that is disproportionately affecting vulnerable student populations. Children from low-income homes were three times more likely to lack consistent access to a device.6 In addition, studies have shown that while more prominent and affluent districts can secure larger orders of computers and tablets, smaller and more rural districts cannot support their students with devices. 

Of course, there is also the matter of education data. Collecting data on student outcomes from a distance was – and is – a daunting task for educators. That challenge is magnified by traditional data that disappeared (such as assessments) or taken on new meaning (such as attendance). Measuring access to Wi-Fi and equipment will become standard practice. Understanding the underlying issues behind participation, such as which students are accessing their LMS and how they are engaging with it, must become standard practice. 

Hoonuit believes these challenges bring a tremendous opportunity and open the door for innovation. Our education experts believe the adoption of online learning will continue to persist post-pandemic. Why? Research suggests that online learning increases retention of information and takes less time. We have also heard from partners that digital learning can be a valuable tool for delivering additional instruction during breaks and weekends. Necessity is the mother of invention, and some of the changes brought on by school closures are likely to stay – and bring positive results. 

Hoonuit’s Path Forward

To make the upcoming year as informative and actionable as possible, Hoonuit provides educators with digital learning analytics. Hoonuit partnered with experts from both the data and academic support teams of district clients to unearth the most meaningful and actionable insights. Our partners indicated they had a strong need for a clear view of three key areas: 

1. Which students have access to learning in a remote environment? 

2. Which students are actively engaging in digital learning? Who is not engaging, and why? 

3. What are the direct, actionable relationships between student success and engaging in digital learning tools? 

Engagement emerged as a driving theme, specifically the best ways to correlate a student’s LMS engagement data with academic data such as course grades. A thorough understanding of student engagement levels is the catalyst educators need to reach out to families (or follow-up), to more quickly identify the specific challenges that are hampering learning. 

Whether it be digital learning metrics around access, engagement, or success, Hoonuit is uniquely suited to provide this information to education agencies due to its ability to store LMS data as part of their broader education data ecosystem. While most LMS analytics solutions are tethered to their own specific LMS, Hoonuit is LMS-agnostic and can serve its partners regardless of the LMS they are using. Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, and its learning are just a few of the LMS systems that Hoonuit brings into its data warehouse today. 

Here is a bird’s-eye view of the metrics available to end-users within the Digital Learning Analytics dashboards of the Hoonuit Essentials solution suite. 

Measuring Access 

Hoonuit lets you know if students, teachers, and parents are accessing your LMS. 

  • Is there a digital divide in your system? 
  • Are students and teachers accessing the LMS? 
  • How often are users accessing the LMS? 
  • How often are students logging in from different student groups? 

Measuring Engagement 

Hoonuit identifies if students, teachers, and parents are using your LMS tools and interacting with content. 

• How many courses are students enrolled in by ethnicity? In what kind of content are students engaging?
• In what kind of content are teachers engaging? 

Measuring Outcomes 

Hoonuit identifies correlations between student outcomes and digital learning access and engagement. 

  • Does LMS participation affect student grades? 
  • How are student grades changing over time while using the LMS? 
  • Does LMS participation affect student test scores? 
  • How are student test scores changing over time while using the LMS? 

A broad range of end-users has quickly emerged for these insights, including principals, curriculum and instructional designers, district administrators, and teachers. Each can take advantage of a range of filters ranging from grade, ethnicity, and gender to SPED and LMS course names to isolate sub-groups for sharper insights. 

As the prevalence of digital learning expands, Hoonuit will continue providing rich analytics to give educators actionable insights to improve student success. We invite you to join the conversation – let us know how we can help solve your specific challenges around digital learning. 

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